This talk was recorded at the Institute for Critical Animal Studies Oceania 2016 Conference in Canberra. You can find out more information about this conference here: http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/oceania-conference/
You can listen to other talks from this conference here.
Below is further information about the talk from the conference booklet, available here: http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/booklet/
Skeleton and Cow: The body constructed as diseased
This paper will analyse how queer and animal bodies have often been constructed as
diseased, as the abject, as the outside, as the not me. It will explore this through an analysis of HIV/AIDS and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BME), commonly known as Mad Cow Disease. This paper will lay a theoretical grounding in biopolitics, through Foucault,
Agamben and Mbembe. It will then show that the construction of disease creates the ideal citizen as the un-diseased, the non-abject, and therefore dictates how certain lives are deemed valuable.
A central analysis will be how both diseases cause profound dis-ease in relation to their effect on the sanity of those who have contracted the virus. It is not just the physical body that is under threat but also the neurological; the threat of madness. This is further
exacerbated by there being no cure, the victim is seen as damned. In response to this
creation of the mad, cows were killed en masse. Humans have deemed ourselves able to exploit cows by eating them, wearing their skin and drinking their milk. Yet, when cows threatened the human corporeality we immediately killed them, we burned their bodies without remorse. Similarly, queer victims of AIDS were (and are) painted as deserving
because they were overly sexual and perverted. Their deaths were not cast as noble.
Further, HIV/AIDS has been claimed to have originated from monkeys (amongst other
obscure and problematic fables) and therefore, in the popular imagination, both diseases cross the species divide and infiltrate human bodies. In this, they construct how the
diseased body is seen as the abject animal. This reinforces the fear that the diseases are able to transcend human hierarchies; anyone could be a victim.
Overall, the socially crafted body as diseased highlights who is deemed as victim, and who is deemed as abject. This reflects larger assumptions of the worth of queers and animals that needs to be deconstructed in order to achieve liberation.
Jessica Ison is the Representative for ICAS in Oceania. She is a PhD candidate at La Trobe University and a tutor in Gender Studies and Animal Studies. Jess is a rescuer for the Coalition Against Duck Shooting and her writing can be found in Overland. In her spare time, she can be heard ranting about prison abolition and fermentation.